I honestly don't think there is a better overseas program than this one! Working with the English Camp Company this past summer has been such an incredible experience and while there is so much to say about this program, I will try to be brief in writing this review.
When I arrived in Italy, the camp owners (Ashleigh and Nate) met me at the train station and somehow knew exactly who I was. It was a really good welcome and that set the tone for the rest of the summer because Italian hospitality is nothing like anything you've ever experienced before. It's amazing to say the least! They really looked after us, right from when we arrived to when we were sent on our way to our first camps.
The first week was spent with orientation and training which involved getting to know the other teachers, learning how and what we were going to be doing all summer and getting comfortable with teaching Italian students... which if you're not familiar is quite the experience. Ashleigh and Nate were really good at answering questions, and preparing us for the summer ahead. You can tell they really care about you and the other teachers and they really have a heart and a passion for what they're doing across Italy... teaching English. Oh and don't let the idea of being "new to teaching" or "I don't know how to teach Italians" scare you! You also have to remember that when you (and everyone else) arrives in Italy at the beginning of the summer, nobody really knows what they are doing but by the end of the summer, you really feel like a pro. It takes time to get comfortable but after a few days of camp, it just becomes second nature.
While overseas, you are staying with a host family at each of the camps you are teaching at. And trust me, these families are so welcoming and just incredible. You'll end up meeting half the town on your first night and eating some of the best pasta you've ever tasted. You become a part of their family and they really go above and beyond to make you feel at home and comfortable. The biggest advice I can give is try everything and don't be afraid of getting to know them. Spend your time with them, not on instagram or facebook. If you have a sensitivity to any sort of food, these families go out of their way to accommodate. One of our teachers from last year was a celiac, and the family went out and bought a brand new set of cutlery and plates for her so she would be "safe." For me, my host families took me to the Swiss Alps where we climbed to one of the highest stations in the Alps, we went swimming in the ocean, went to Milan, Rome, Perugia, went gliding in the Alps, and went out to eat and see different cultural events. Don't be shy. Get in there and have fun.
The camps are set up in such a way that kids don't spend all day in English classes but rather "experience" English through camp songs (yes you must sing and be crazy), through games and activities as well as English classes. You are assigned your own group of kids that will be in your class for the duration of the camp. Get to know them, they love hearing about where you're from, how many brothers or sisters you have an what kind of pets you have. Italians are also crazy about taking selfies. So go ahead and take a few. Above all, be yourself. The most challenging part of the summer for me was the speaking english part. You need to really break down your English and speak in a way that THEY can understand. This sounds more difficult than it is. Seriously, after 2 or 3 days, it's second nature. And being completely honest, after spending a whole summer overseas in Italy, when I went back home, I actually found it difficult to speak English normally again. Which was amusing.
These camps rest solely on how well YOU perform as a teacher/tutor. This might be intimidating to hear but think of it like this: at the end of the day when you see those kids going home, laughing and speaking so quickly, trying to tell their parents about everything that happened and how much they love English camp, you can be sure that it's because of your hard work and energy. And that's what keeps them coming back.
Although I have hundreds of stories that I could share, I'll briefly share one with you. This was at my first camp and I was teaching the oldest kids (10-13 year olds). We had been working all week on the English Past Tense which I thought wasn't going very well. They didn't seem to be getting it as fast as I wanted and I didn't think I was teaching them as well as I could have. I felt bad. After the weekend, on Monday morning, I had a parent come up to me and say that over the weekend, her daughter (whom was in my class) couldn't stop correcting us on our English. Apparently they were using the Past Tense incorrectly and her daughter corrected them endless times using stuff we had been learning all the previous week. That was a good feeling and the point is that even though these kids might not always express their gratitude or show you their understanding, they actually do get it and appreciate your work.
When asked to sum up the whole summer and what it takes to be successful, I'd say this: To make the summer an unforgettable one, you gotta let your guards down and just have fun, be silly and be energetic. Be bold with your teaching, tell the kids stories, and get to know them. Show them that you want their English to improve and that you love the job. Even when it's +45C outside and you're sweating buckets, forget about it and just have fun. Enjoy every moment and try everything. Don't be shy of not fitting in because they know you're not Italian already so you got nothing to worry about. And above all, relax. It's gonna be one heck of a summer!
Summer 2016... let's do this!